How to use WSUS to get control over Windows

This was one of the most interesting attacks showed on Black Hat Las Vegas 2015. Let’s imagine the situation: there’s a large park of Windows computers in a large organization, and they all need to be updated. Obviously, getting all of them to download updates over the Internet is both pricy and uncomfortable. The common solution is a WSUS (Windows Server Update Services) server, which is used to manage updates. It downloads the updates and delivers them to all other computers.

This is a typical task and the solution is standard, so WSUS is widely adopted. This also makes it an attractive target for attacks. The Contextis company examined the principles of its work and developed an attack, which is both very powerful (you can get RCE with System privileges) and easy to reproduce. The white paper is voluminous, so we’ll concentrate on the main points.

So the company has a WSUS server, and the end hosts are configured through group policies to address this particular server for the updates. They use SOAP protocol, which by default works over HTTP. This is one of the most important factors for us. The standard port is 8530.

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